Probiotics for Kids: Yay or Nay? Unveiling the Truth About Gut Health Support

Are probiotics for kids safe? Read on to get the science.

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*Our team independently evaluates and reviews products for the OA community. If you click on the links provided, we may receive compensation which helps to keep the lights on. Learn more.

If you’ve ever had a child who suffers from irregularity or other digestive issues, you know how disruptive this can be. As a mother of two — one with a history of toddler tummy issues — I understand this problem intimately.

There is evidence that probiotics can help to support children’s gut health.

We wanted to dig deeper, so we enlisted Brittany Lubeck MS, RD to help us get to the bottom of it: Should you consider probiotics for your kids? And if so, what are the best kids probiotics and why? The ever-popular gummies or chewable tablets? And does every kid need to be taking probiotics? So many questions. And we’ve got some answers.

We put one kid’s probiotic brand — Hiya’s chewable probiotic with 10 billion live cultures — to the test. We asked three families to try them out and share their experiences. 

Read on to learn more, and in particular, one little boy’s struggle with pooping. His poop was so hard it clogged the toilets! And the kicker – his GI specialist’s recommendations weren’t really working. We’ll also share Registered Dietician Lubeck’s take on kids’ probiotics.

First, let’s cover why gut health is important for your kids.

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Why Gut Health Matters

Even when we’re careful, we may be exposed to chemicals from just about every angle. From choosing non-toxic cookware, to avoiding toxic melamine dishes, and looking for safe, Vaseline alternatives, we’re all doing our best, but it’s tough! Well, it turns out, nurturing a healthy microbiome may help support your immune system and so much more. 

We now know that gut health is essential to our overall well-being. Read on to see if kids’ probiotics can help support your little one’s gut health.

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When the gut is compromised, it harms just about everything including:

  • Immune system
  • Digestion
  • Nutrient absorption
  • Waste removal
  • Mental health, including mental clarity, ( a large percentage of the body’s serotonin [aka the “happy” hormone] is in the gut)

But finding a probiotic suitable for a child can be challenging, especially if they’re picky eaters. Certainly, making it chewable is ideal (and likely a must, as most kids cannot swallow large pills).

However, not all chewable probiotics for kids are created equal. In fact, many of them — especially the gummy versions — contain added dyes and high levels of sugar, which can contribute to cavities and other health issues.

The creators behind Hiya are dads who envisioned a kids’ supplement company without all the fillers and sugars. They did this, not by creating another gummy, but instead by creating a chewable tablet that is as palatable as a gummy — without all the added sugar.

Have a personal experience with kids’ probiotics? Please share with the community in the comments below.

Gummies vs. Tablets: What’s the Difference?

Check out the dosing size of a chewable tablet vs, different gummy brands. Depending on the brand, you may have to take two, to, three gummies to reach dosage requirements. And look at the sugar coated gummies. Should kids be eating those daily? 

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Many parents have turned to gummies simply because they’re more palatable (and who can blame you in a house full of picky eaters?). But are they really worth it? They may be doing more harm than good.

It’s nearly impossible to find a gummy that doesn’t have sugar in it, and as its main ingredient at that. Gummy vitamins often contain some kind of sugar syrup (tapioca, typically) as their main ingredient, followed closely by cane sugar. Sure, some brands don’t contain sugar, but they typically employ the use of ingredients like vegetable or sunflower oils which may contribute to inflammation, and/or a combination of natural flavors to help with taste and texture.

Notably, even if your gummy vitamins claim to be sugar-free, they likely contain other sweeteners, such as high-sugar fruit juice or sugar alcohols, which can also contribute to unpleasant digestive issues.

The Issues with Feeding a Child a Gummy Supplement Daily

When choosing bright gummy children’s probiotics, be sure to check how much sugar is in a single dose.

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Not surprisingly, eating a lot of something sweet may cause children to develop a sweet palette (aka a sweet tooth). Unfortunately, this sets parents up for even more picky eating down the line, because their children’s palettes are being primed to prefer sugar. 

What’s more, unless your child is eating fats and proteins before they eat sugar, your child’s sweet intake is causing a glucose spike (a sudden increase in blood sugar in the bloodstream), which is always followed by a sugar crash.

The rise and fall of blood sugar often causes those nasty tantrums to rear their ugly heads (parents, we’ve all been there, am I right?). Glucose spikes can cause all sorts of issues in addition to those tantrums, including compromised immune systems, an increase in oxidative stress, and so much more.

Not only that, but because the gummies are akin to candies, children tend to eat more than they are supposed to, which can lead to them consuming too much at one time. Moreover, the gummies often get stuck in kids’ teeth, which can lead to cavities.

By contrast, a chewable probiotic for kids in tablet form means not just less sugar, but also not having to compromise on gut-healthy bacterial strains and their efficacy.

The Efficacy of Gummies vs Tablets

Most gummy vitamins contain between 2 and 8 grams of sugar per serving. That may not seem like much, but the American Heart Association recommends no more than 25 grams of sugar for children and teens (about 6 teaspoons). 

So if your child is already getting 8 grams of sugar in their single vitamin — or, in this case, probiotic — serving, that doesn’t leave much more to account for the rest of the sugars — natural and otherwise — they will consume throughout the rest of the day.

Take a look at the pros and cons of gummies, they’re pretty compelling:

Though there are pros to gummy probiotics for kids, the cons may outweigh them.

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Gummies Questionable Efficacy

Another big issue with gummies is their downright questionable efficacy: Vitamins, minerals, and other ingredients are tough to incorporate into a gummy due to stability issues.

As a result, you may have to take a higher dosage to reach the recommended efficacy levels, which results in yet more sugar consumption. These added sugar calories can lead to other health issues, such as obesity and diabetes.

Additionally, the ingredients in gummies may not be stable and may contain more or less than their listed amount of ingredients. In fact, according to a UCLA study on gummy vitamins, gummies tend to have a shorter shelf life, and their potency can degrade over time.

The Efficacy of Tablets

Tablets, on the other hand, contain minimal sugar, if any. And they contain a more precise amount of the advertised dosages. The ingredients in tablets are more stable, resulting in a longer shelf life.

Take a look at the table below for a list of pros and cons for tablets.

If you’re concerned about the sugar intake for your child, then the tablet form of children’s probiotics may be a better option — among other pros.

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What Makes Hiya Kids’ Probiotics Different?

Hiya kids’ probiotics are chewable tablets, not gummies. They are specifically formulated for kids (most kids’ probiotics are not!). Some additional highlights include the following:

  • Contain clinically-researched strains of probiotics
  • Have no added sugar
  • No refrigeration is needed
  • Clean ingredients
  • Non-GMO
  • Free of gluten and dairy
  • Contains both probiotic and prebiotic fiber. Many probiotic supplements miss the prebiotics (which can really help up the poop game if your little one is having issues going regularly!).
  • Come in an eco-friendly reusable bottle

Every first order with Hiya comes with a child-resistant, premium, reusable glass container and stickers that your child can decorate it with. They make taking a daily chewable probiotic fun for kids, while instilling healthy habits.

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Hiya’s daily chewable probiotic tablets contain a prebiotic and probiotic blend of clinical researched strains of Lactobacillus rhamnosus (GG), lactobacillus paracasei (UALpc-04™), Bacillus lactis (Bl-04®), and larch tree fiber (which evidence suggests has a significant effect on enhancing beneficial gut microflora).1

These strains make up a whopping 10 Billion live cultures. They are the most clinically researched strains of good bacteria that have been shown to be good for our children’s growing bodies and are designed to restore the natural balance of good bacteria.

View the original article to see embedded media.

An Interview with a Registered Dietician on Probiotics for Kids

Not sure which are the best probiotics supplement for your child? If proper dosing and a minimal sugar intake are important to you, chewable tablets may be a better choice. 

To help us get to the bottom of whether or not probiotics are right for kids, we interviewed Registered Dietician, Brittany Lubeck, MS RD. Here’s the Q + A:

This is not a substitute for professional medical advice. See your primary care physician when making changes to you, your child’s, or anyone in your family’s lifestyle or routine.

Organic Authority: Why should parents care about their child’s gut health?

Brittany Lubeck, MS, RD: The majority of your immune system (about 70%) lies in your gut, making gut health essential, no matter your age. Many diseases and health conditions start in the gut. Even mental health can also be affected by gut health. This means that parents can’t afford to forget about their child’s gut health.

Organic Authority: What are some symptoms of an unbalanced gut health in a child?

Brittany Lubeck, MS, RD: There are many signs and symptoms to look out for when it comes to the health of your kid’s gut. Your child may have an imbalanced gut microbiome if they regularly experience:2

  • Bloating
  • Excessive gas
  • Abdominal pain or cramping
  • Changes in bowel movements
  • Heartburn
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Poor appetite

Organic Authority: When should a parent consider probiotics for their children?

Brittany Lubeck, MS, RD: Some kids with poor gut health may benefit from using probiotics, especially if other measures don’t work. If diet and lifestyle changes don’t help, and symptoms persist, it may be time to talk with a healthcare provider about how to safely give your child probiotics.

Organic Authority: Can probiotics help a child with going regularly?

Brittany Lubeck, MS, RD: Research shows that probiotics may be useful when it comes to making sure kids can go to the bathroom regularly.

A 2023 umbrella review found that probiotics significantly improved treatment success and defecation frequency in children. Probiotics were also found to decrease the recurrence of digestion issues.

Organic Authority: What are your top tips to keep your child’s gut healthy?

Brittany Lubeck, MS, RD: As a parent myself, I do my best to keep my daughter’s gut healthy by offering her a wellbalanced diet complete with natural probiotics. Yogurt is a great source of probiotics and something that can be eaten daily.

Other nutrient-dense, fiber-rich foods, like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, are also a must when it comes to a healthy gut. And while treats and fun foods don’t need to be off limits, these shouldn’t take up a large portion of your child’s diet.

Organic Authority: At what age is it safe to start giving your child probiotics?

Brittany Lubeck, MS, RD: There isn’t a ton of data on the safe use of probiotics in kids. However, it’s typically recommended that you don’t give your child probiotics until at least the age of one, but this isn’t a hard and fast rule. Therefore, you should always consult with your child’s healthcare provider before using probiotics.

Organic Authority: Are there any children for whom probiotics may not be the safest?

Brittany Lubeck, MS, RD: It’s best to check with a healthcare provider before giving your child probiotics, especially if they have any medical conditions or take any prescription drugs.

Probiotics may not be safe for children under the age of one. It’s also recommended that children with compromised immune systems, such as those with cancer, avoid using probiotics.

Hiya in the Wild: Sam’s Story.

Involving kids in the process of creating something is more likely to inspire their participation in any activity. 

Hiya Health

Of the three families that tried these probiotics, all of their kids were absolutely thrilled with the cool stickers and packaging that came with the refillable glass bottles. It made the experience really fun, and as parenting experts have taught us, if you involve your child in the process of something, they are more likely to want to cooperate.

All of the children enjoyed taking the probiotics, but Sam’s story stands out the most.

That’s because Sam has a history of gastrointestinal issues. He has been to a pediatric GI specialist for prolapse of his rectum from constipation and straining to go number two. His GI specialist recommended cutting out dairy. He also suggested including a magnesium supplement in his diet, along with a fiber gummy.

Sam’s mom incorporated all of the GI doc’s advice, and they seemed to help – a little bit. But they still found Sam’s bowel movements to be hard, and he still had to strain to get them out. In fact, his poops were so hard they clogged the toilets!

After taking the Hiya Health kids’ probiotic, within a few days, Sam said his bowel movements were soft and easy to come out. He continues to say how easy it is to poop and does not have a strain at all!

View the original article to see embedded media.

If your child struggles with digestive issues, talk to their doctor to see if kids’ probiotics are right for them.

Hiya Health

This recent conversation Sam had with his mom says it all:

Mom: Did you already poop?

Sam: Yep.

Mom: That fast?

Sam: I poop really fast now with those probiotics!

Sam’s sister, Ava, also took the probiotics, and though she didn’t have a history of digestive health issues, she even reported feeling a difference from taking them. She reported that she had to go to the bathroom more frequently, and that her stomach hurt less than it did before she started taking them.

View the original article to see embedded media.

Read More on Organic Authority 

While probiotics for kids can support their gut health, so can fiber-rich foods and greens.

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*Our team independently evaluates and reviews products for the OA community. If you click on the links provided, we may receive compensation which helps to keep the lights on. Learn more.

Sources:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10231609/
  2. https://www.childrens.com/specialties-services/conditions/pediatric-microbiome-imbalance

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